NEW YORK (Nov. 9, 2011) —
In the presence of U.S. Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney, Weill Cornell Medical College today dedicated the Belfer Research Building, a state-of-the-art facility that will more than double the Medical College’s existing research space and position Weill Cornell at the vanguard of new medical research and discoveries. A ceremony was held to recognize the generosity of the building’s many donors, including a $100 million gift from Renée and Robert Belfer, for whom the building is named.
When it opens in 2014, the 480,000-square-foot building will be devoted to translational bench-to-bedside research targeting some of our most daunting health challenges, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, children’s health, neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, and global health and infectious diseases.
The $650 million building is the centerpiece of Weill Cornell’s $1.3 billion Discoveries that Make a Difference campaign, the country’s largest for a medical college. More than $1.1 billion has been raised toward this goal in just over five years, including an impressive 116 gifts of $1 million or more, of which 37 specifically support the new Belfer Research Building.
Notably, $135 million was provided through a challenge gift from Sanford I. Weill, chairman of the Weill Cornell Board of Overseers, and his wife, Joan, as part of their historic $250 million pledge in 2007 — believed to be the single largest gift ever given to a medical school. Maurice R. “Hank” Greenberg, a member of the Board of Overseers of Weill Cornell Medical College and chairman and CEO of The Starr Foundation, and his wife, Corinne, have also been leading supporters of the Discoveries campaign. The Starr Foundation has given $75 million, in addition to $25 million from Corinne and Hank Greenberg — all toward the Belfer Research Building.
“I am extremely grateful to Weill Cornell for their continued investment into our community and the health of all New Yorkers,” says Congresswoman Maloney. “The Belfer Research Building will be a powerful catalyst for scientific discoveries that address some of today’s biggest health challenges. At the same time, this building will help cement our region’s reputation as a Silicon Valley for biotech research, attracting world-class talent and creating jobs.”
“Renée and Robert Belfer and their family have demonstrated a deep and longstanding commitment to Weill Cornell and, more broadly, to the promise of biomedical research to make a real difference in patients’ lives. This building will help realize this vision, and for that I am grateful,” says Sanford I. Weill, who is chairman of the Board of Overseers of Weill Cornell Medical College and a 1955 graduate of Cornell University. “I am equally grateful for the leadership of Dr. Antonio M. Gotto. This building is the capstone of his remarkable tenure as dean.”
“The Belfer Research Building is an inspiring symbol of the Medical College’s ongoing commitment to fostering translational research,” says Dr. Antonio M. Gotto Jr., the Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean of Weill Cornell Medical College. “It is a centerpiece of our tripartite mission to promote biomedical research, medical education and patient care both locally and around the world. I believe it will lead to major innovations in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease.”
“As a young man I was treated by physicians at Weill Cornell,” says Robert Belfer. “Over the years, this outstanding institution has helped many members of my extended family. I can think of no better way to give back than to hope that the discoveries made at this new research building will help generations of New Yorkers and all mankind to lead healthier lives.”
For nearly three decades and spanning three generations, Renée and Robert Belfer and their family have been a driving force in shaping the face of medical research at Weill Cornell. They are longstanding benefactors to Weill Cornell Medical College, giving generously of their financial resources, time, advocacy and wisdom. Robert Belfer, who is chairman of Belfer Management LLC, has been on the Weill Cornell Board of Overseers since 1989. He is also a member of the Executive Committee of Weill Cornell Medical College and now serves on the steering committee of the Discoveries campaign, formerly as chairman of the campaign’s Initiative for Cancer Research. Renée Belfer is a member of the NewYork Weill Cornell Council. She has been a member of the Executive Committee of the Lying-In Hospital of NewYork-Presbyterian for over 20 years, and she has been a co-chair of the Annual Fashion Show and Luncheon, which supports the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
“Corinne and I are proud to celebrate the success of this capital campaign, and the future of this remarkable research building,” says Mr. Greenberg. “More than a building, this is a major investment in biomedical research that will set the standard for multidisciplinary and intra-institutional collaboration.”
The Greenbergs and the Starr Foundation have been generous and loyal benefactors of Weill Cornell Medical College and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, the College’s clinical partner. Mr. Greenberg is also the chairman emeritus of the Board of Trustees at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the true commitment and generous donor support for this pivotal initiative for the University and the Medical College,” says Peter C. Meinig, chairman of the Cornell University Board of Trustees. “One of the most important aspects of this state-of-the-art building is its potential for speeding up the vital process of translating discoveries into treatments.”
“I am personally very excited not only by the expanded research potential at Weill Cornell but also by the expanded opportunities that the Belfer Research Building presents for collaboration between our two campuses,” says Dr. David Skorton, president of Cornell University.
The Research Leads to Cures initiative, a new phase in the Discoveries campaign, aims to raise $225 million in support of endowments and faculty recruitment for 30 new scientists and their programs within the new Belfer Research Building. As construction continues, Weill Cornell is already actively recruiting the nation’s top scientists. Three of 30 recruits have already joined the faculty.
“This campaign is focused on the people and programs that spearhead the research leading to tomorrow’s cures, much of which will take place in the Belfer Research Building,” says Robert J. Appel, chairman of Weill Cornell Medical College’s Discoveries that Make a Difference campaign.
The Nov. 9 dedication ceremony for the Belfer Research Building included remarks by Carolyn B. Maloney, U.S. representative for New York’s 14th congressional district; Dr. David J. Skorton, president of Cornell University; Peter C. Meinig, chairman of the Cornell University Board of Trustees; Sanford I. Weill, chairman of the Weill Cornell Medical College Board of Overseers; Maurice R. Greenberg, member of Weill Cornell’s Board of Overseers; Dr. Antonio M. Gotto Jr., dean of the Medical College; Robert Belfer, member of Weill Cornell’s Board of Overseers; Robert J. Appel, chairman of Weill Cornell’s Discoveries that Make a Difference campaign; Dr. Steven J. Corwin, CEO of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital; and Jeffrey Russ, M.D.-Ph.D. student and student overseer.
Generous support by the Belfer family is leading to progress and breakthroughs in finding solutions to some of today’s most prevalent health problems. In 1980, Arthur Belfer, father of Robert Belfer, established the R.A. Rees Pritchett Professorship of Microbiology with a gift of $1 million. In 1991, Robert and Renée Belfer and his two sisters and their husbands, Selma and Lawrence Ruben and Anita and Jack Saltz, committed $1.5 million to endow the Rochelle Belfer Professorship in Medicine. In 1998 the families gave $4 million to endow the Arthur B. Belfer Professorship in Genetic Medicine and provide funding for the Arthur and Rochelle Belfer Gene Therapy Core Facility. With a gift of $8 million in 2005, Robert and Renée Belfer established The Arthur and Rochelle Belfer Institute of Hematology and Medical Oncology, named in honor of Robert Belfer’s parents, which expanded key research areas such as solid tumor biology, cancer genomics and proteomics. Robert and Renée Belfer have also provided financial support for programs in women’s health, and in 2003 they gave $1 million to create the Anti-Bioterrorism Project.
Designed by Ennead Architects, the Belfer Research Building has open floor plans throughout to facilitate communication and collaboration between scientists, aiming to transcend the barriers of academic departments and encourage interdisciplinary research. Its proximity to the Weill Greenberg Center, the Medical College’s award-winning ambulatory care building, will further enhance communication between investigative researchers and practicing clinicians. When complete, an array of sophisticated lab equipment will be made available to partnering medical and academic institutions in the community, helping to attract scientists, physicians, students and patients from around the world. The facility will also be environmentally friendly, energy efficient and aesthetically pleasing, with a glass façade that reduces energy consumption and bathes interior areas with natural sunlight.
Cancer Research. The building will be the locus for the new Weill Cornell Cancer Center, which was created to translate discoveries into effective preventive and treatment strategies, create synergies in cancer research, advance global efforts in cancer prevention, and educate and train medical professionals and researchers. The researchers’ goal is to collaborate to find ways to stop cancer before it ever has the chance to gain a foothold.
Heart Health. Researchers will investigate new treatments for heart disease, specifically in the areas of atherosclerosis, angiogenesis and cardiac genetics. Scientists across disciplines will work with physicians to tackle major questions such as genetic predispositions to cardiac arrest, the influence of cholesterol in heart disease, and the causes of imbalance in blood vessel formation.
The Brain. Weill Cornell researchers will continue to lead the way in groundbreaking research in brain health. Every day, researchers in the lab and physicians working with patients make strides that deepen the understanding of the basic biology of the brain. Weill Cornell is focusing on Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases; has successfully conducted the first gene therapy for Parkinson’s disease, which strikes 50,000 people in the U.S. each year; and is exploring new frontiers for the causes and treatment of stroke, which affects 700,000 Americans each year.
Children’s Health. Weill Cornell physician-scientists will collaborate across specialties to seek answers to the most prevalent health issues affecting children today, including leukemia, epilepsy, asthma, diabetes, autism and childhood infections. As one example, new insights into the biology of the brain promise to lead to cell-based therapies for several common neurological disorders such as epilepsy, which afflicts about 45,000 children under the age of 15 each year. Physician-scientists will build on research breakthroughs already under way in pediatric cancers, obesity and diabetes, heart disease, neurological disorders and infectious diseases.
Stem Cell Biology, Developmental Biology, and Regenerative and Reproductive Medicine. Among the recent notable advances in biomedicine, none stir the imagination and raise hope more than those in regenerative medicine — the science of marshaling the body’s own cellular resources for restoring tissue and function. In only a few short years, research breakthroughs in the Ansary Stem Cell Institute at Weill Cornell have positioned us as global leaders in a key discipline in regenerative medicine — stem cell biology. Continuing research in this area will lay the groundwork for developing new treatments for cardiovascular disease and other conditions.
Global Health and Infectious Diseases. The Belfer Research Building will be the international hub of Weill Cornell’s extensive global network of scientists and physicians working to develop innovative ways to combat infectious diseases and develop treatments for the growing burden of chronic diseases. It will be linked with The Center for Global Health, a collaborative effort between Weill Cornell and Cornell University in Ithaca, to build on programs in Australia, Brazil, Haiti, India, Peru and Tanzania, among many other countries.
Diabetes, Metabolic Disorders and Obesity. Weill Cornell investigators will study new ways to address diabetes and insulin-related metabolic disorders, which now affect more than 20 percent of the national population. They are studying the effects of bariatric surgeries on obesity and cancer; the use of islet cells in kidney transplantation, providing a promising new cell therapy for the cure of Type 1 diabetes; and ongoing clinical trials on glucose control. In addition, Weill Cornell research programs in genetic medicine are furthering understanding of the interaction of the environment and genetics in the risk for diabetes, and how genetic variations cause disarray in the metabolism of carbohydrates, as well as developing new therapies to treat the epidemic of diabetes and obesity.
The campaign for Weill Cornell Medical College, Discoveries that Make a Difference, has raised an unprecedented $1.1 billion in private philanthropy toward a goal of $1.3 billion to translate the findings of basic science into the most advanced treatments for patients as quickly as possible. In the 21st century, the most profound discoveries in medical science will occur at the intersection of disciplines and through the collaboration of new ideas. Discoveries will fund a bold strategic plan including paradigm-shifting initiatives in biomedical research, medical education and patient care to advance global health and well-being.
The Discoveries campaign leverages the synergies created by Weill Cornell’s partnerships with NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, The Rockefeller University, The Methodist Hospital–Houston, as well as Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, and through our work in global health in Tanzania and Haiti. The campaign will support the recruitment and retention of the very best faculty, doubling our existing research space with the construction of a new biomedical research building, and expanding programs in discrete areas, including: cancer; cardiovascular medicine; obesity, diabetes and metabolic disorders; neurodegenerative, neuropsychiatric diseases and aging; stem cell, developmental biology, and regenerative and reproductive medicine; global health and infectious diseases; children’s health; and collaborative opportunities with our Ithaca campus. Student scholarship is another priority of the campaign, to assure the College continues to attract the very best students regardless of their ability to pay for top-quality medical education. For more information on the Discoveries campaign, please visit www.weill.cornell.edu/campaign.
Weill Cornell Medical College, Cornell University’s medical school located in New York City, is committed to excellence in research, teaching, patient care and the advancement of the art and science of medicine, locally, nationally and globally. Physicians and scientists of Weill Cornell Medical College are engaged in cutting-edge research from bench to bedside, aimed at unlocking mysteries of the human body in health and sickness and toward developing new treatments and prevention strategies. In its commitment to global health and education, Weill Cornell has a strong presence in places such as Qatar, Tanzania, Haiti, Brazil, Austria and Turkey. Through the historic Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, the Medical College is the first in the U.S. to offer its M.D. degree overseas. Weill Cornell is the birthplace of many medical advances — including the development of the Pap test for cervical cancer, the synthesis of penicillin, the first successful embryo-biopsy pregnancy and birth in the U.S., the first clinical trial of gene therapy for Parkinson’s disease, and most recently, the world’s first successful use of deep brain stimulation to treat a minimally conscious brain-injured patient. Weill Cornell Medical College is affiliated with NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, where its faculty provides comprehensive patient care at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. The Medical College is also affiliated with the Methodist Hospital in Houston. For more information, visit weill.cornell.edu.